Last night saw the opening of a one and a half week run of Evita at the Leeds Grand Theatre. I have never seen Evita and given that I am quite the Webber fan, (and not ashamed to admit it…) I was rather looking forward to it especially since the musical is based on a compelling true story.
The story of Evita is a famous one, based on the turbulent and tragically short life of Eva Peron, this musical follows her from her local girl beginnings into the transition of the most powerful and esteemed women in Argentina. Various productions portray Eva Peron in different lights, this particular one, however, represents her to be ceaselessly power hungry and driven, galvanizing both hers and her husband’s careers forward with a Macbethean passion. Personally, I liked this portrayal (and exaggeration?) of Eva’s incessant lust for power. It made the whole story more intriguing and gave Eva a fascinating depth that is complimented well by the meretricious Latin inspired music.
Abigail Jaye is an excellent Eva – capturing her transition from driven naivety into a mature, shrewd and powerful woman perfectly. Her singing was affecting and she never lost the capture of the audience. Her biggest achievement though is the way she managed to keep the Leeds crowd as onside as the Argentinian nation despite us being able to see her machinations first hand. The character should be unsympathetic but somehow, Jaye manages to convince us otherwise through her oozing charisma and charm. The rest of the cast and chorus too, were very strong and Earl Carpenter as Person was completely convincing.
The second half, for me, lost the momentum of the first half, but this is a musical that will naturally slow down over time along with its protagonist. The final scenes were powerful and emotional and the cast and orchestra received a roar of applause and cheers from the audience.
Overall Evita is an excellent musical, with all cast members strong and compelling. Definitely worth a watch!